Tuesday, May 31, 2011

What We're Up To: A Lesson Learned

By Maddie Mechem, Concert Choir
Maddie has been in BCC for 4 years. She is 15 years old.

Concert Choir recently had a performance as part of an annual fundraiser for the Dorchester Bay Economic Development Corporation, which took place at Boston College High School. This concert’s set-up was not the same as we are used to, which meant we learned some great lessons about performing in different environments.

The first difference was that we sang in one long row on a balcony, as opposed to our usual three short rows. This meant that we couldn’t hear all the other parts directly, and had to really listen in order to make sure our pitches were correct in relation to the other sections. It was challenging, but I think we did it! Another difference was that, because we were the musical entertainment at a social gathering, we did not have the full attention of the audience while we were singing. These differences took most of us slightly off-guard, and we had to adjust how we performed to this specific situation, something that all good performers must learn to do.

We ended up doing really well, even on The Storm Is Passing Over, which we had only really gotten the hang of the day before in rehearsal. Several people from DBEDC told us that we were great, and that everyone appreciated us coming to sing, which was an extremely nice thing to say. Other than positive comments from DBEDC, we can take away some valuable information, which we can put to use in future performances. The main thing to take away from this is that the space we perform in might not be what we are used to, but we just have to make the best of it, and be confident that we can!

Friday, May 20, 2011

What We’re Up To: Building a Community of Boston Music Educators

Last year, BCC was awarded a grant by EdVestors, an organization that drives change in urban schools through strategic private investment. The grant was part of the Boston Public Schools (BPS) Arts Expansion Fund, a three-year $2.5 million effort whose mission is to empower BPS schools to embrace and expand arts instruction in schools.

Each month, five BPS music teachers met with BCC’s Artistic Director Anthony Trecek-King and Assistant Artistic Director Michele Adams to discuss a wide range of topics related to their work. The final meeting was held recently at BCC Central, where each teacher presented a project they’d been working on throughout their time in the Study Group. Project topics included curriculum development, integration of solfege for young singers, and the effect of music training on language fluency. 

The teachers were (from left to right in the photo): Kelly DiGrazia - Orchard Gardens, Sharon Hamel - F. D. Roosevelt, Sonya White Hope - Winthrop Elementary, PK Egersheim - Condon Elementary, Tamiko Everson - Murphy Elementary. Cleo Knight-Wilkins, BPS Senior Program Director for the Arts, was also in attendance for the final presentation.

While tempting to call the presentations a capstone, the teachers had many other important experiences together this year. Artistic Director Anthony Trecek-King remarked that, “From the first session, it was obvious to Michelle and I that this group needed this time to build community together, and we adjusted accordingly.”

The outcome was clear: these educators had developed a profound connection to one another, based on a rare opportunity to intensively discuss their work with peers. Lest we assume that music teachers have lots of opportunity to connect, in the teacher’s lounge or in their classrooms, the Study Group highlighted the following:
  • Nearly all schools have a single music teacher, and many are not even dedicated to a single school
  • Many teach during nearly every period, with few “inactive” minutes during the school day
  • Many do not have their own classrooms
In light of these facts, it’s easy to understand why this Study Group relished their discussions as they did. BCC considers it part of its mission to build community in this way, and hopes to expand this initiative next year and for years to come.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

What We're Up To: Getting National Recognition!

We are proud to share some joyful and exciting news with you – just last week, BCC received a national award from Chorus America, and has been selected as a Finalist for the nation’s highest award for out-of-school youth arts and humanities programs!

First, BCC has won the Margaret Hillis Award for Choral Excellence from Chorus America! The award is presented annually, but youth choruses are only eligible every three years. The winner demonstrates artistic excellence, a strong organizational structure, and a commitment to outreach, education, and/or culturally diverse activities. We are so honored! Founder Hubie Jones will accept the award in San Francisco in a few weeks – pictures to come!

And if that wasn’t enough, we also got word that we were selected as a Finalist for a National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award from the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities! This selection recognizes BCC as one of the top arts and humanities-based programs in the country! We are one of 50 finalists nationally, and will know in June whether or not we are one of 15 winners. Here is a link to a YouTube video about the award.

A shout-out for both awards is due to the whole BCC community and staff, but especially to Jan Woiler Meuse, Foundation Relations and Marketing Manager, who does all the writing that shows the judges just how great we really are! Reach out and thank her, or leave a comment here!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

What BCC Means to Me - So Much More Than Just Tuesdays and Thursdays

By: Elizabeth Stutts, Premier Choir
Elizabeth has been in BCC for 7 years. She is 16 years old.

Elizabeth during her first tour (to Japan) in 2005.
In my very first year in the chorus, I was able to go with the group on a tour during the summer to Japan. That more than anything else began to define my experiences with the chorus, and became one of the reasons I stayed involved in it for year after year. Thanks to BCC, I could go to places that my family would not be able to go to, or send me, for many different reasons. Not only that, but I was going to these different places for a reason- I was going as a performer, as an "ambassador of harmony." I could learn from this place I was going, and I had something I could contribute there as well. I learned that on my very first tour, and I have only had that knowledge affirmed since then.
Tour, and performances, were at first the biggest draws of the Boston Children's Chorus for me. Both were something new and exciting for me, something that I had never really been given a previous chance to experience. Over time, however, more reasons were added on to these first two. I got to meet and become friends with many of my fellow chorus members over the years, thanks to the frequent rehearsals, performances, and even tour. What had before been simply a group of children changed with each year. The ties between all of us got stronger, and soon enough, the group was close enough to become a family. At first, I don't believe many of us noticed it, and I know that I almost certainly didn't. Perhaps we all really began to notice it when we had our first graduating senior, because at that point we had our first person who left the chorus because they had gotten to old- not because they wanted to leave. That departure was a moving experience for many of us, and it showed just how much of a family we had become. The last performance in every year is now a monumental occasion, because in some cases, it is the last time that some members of the group will ever have to perform with us. It is then that we mourn the presence of a friend who is leaving us.

I know that next year, my senior year, will be hectic for many reasons, primarily because of the high expectations of the charter school I now attend. This year as well has been very trying on me, as all of my classes are more demanding than ever before, and maintaining good grades requires a great amount of time and effort. No matter how hard it gets, though, I am not going to give up on the time I have remaining with the chorus. It means too much to me to let this go without doing my best to stick through things as long as I can. I have made my closest friends through this community, and even the people I don't know as well I feel connected to, because we share something- a love of music and a commitment to BCC.
This community is much more open, and all-encompassing, and welcoming, than any I have ever been a part of, and I would have to be insane to give up a group that can look at a person for who they are, and accept them and love them for it. That has helped me to learn about myself, and not be afraid to be myself, even if being myself might seem strange to my peers at school. Their opinions do not matter to me as much as the encouragement I receive to be an individual whenever I come into chorus for rehearsal. I have had my eyes opened in so many ways over the years, it is impossible to describe. The chorus has touched nearly every aspect of my life.

If nothing else, when I do finally graduate, I doubt I will ever know again what to do with my Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. That is the time when rehearsal is supposed to be, after all.